The Superversive in Film: Ozamu Tezuka’s “Metropolis”

In 2001, the anime adaptation of Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic Metropolis released in Japan. It came to the West some time later, and–having watched both–I find the adaptation to a more powerful story because it relies even more on the bedrock of Western culture (Christianity) than the original.

The difference is the establishment of a reason for the erection of these skyscrapers and the industrial complex that drives that powerbase: the explicit attempt to create a second Tower of Babel. If you are at all familiar with that story, then you already know how this is going to end.

What matters here is the execution. Instead of our protagonist being the villain’s son, he’s an outsider who visits the titular city alongside his uncle (who’s there on a case) that gets wrapped up in a mess of a plot over a child-like gynoid that’s central to the villain’s plans. The brewing revolution, with ready revolutionaries, from the original is carried over and developed further into a vital subplot whose conclusion ignites the climax.

All of which serves to underpin a consistent thread that, as with the original, the industrialization that the city presents (and represents) is dehumanizing to everyone captured by it. Only our protagonist, being an outsider, retains the human humility necessary to see the folly in all of the plotting going on and implores with the one other character immediately able to stop it to do so- and, at the last moment, succeeds.

The story goes to the effort to show how the apparent peace and prosperity of the city and its inhabitants comes at the cost of subverting the population’s dignity, which they return in kind to the elites preying upon them as well as to the robots who often are the means of this dehumanization, which has exactly the effects that are known to happen to a culture over time: a downward spiral of degeneracy into savagery and despair as the real needs of one and all are unmet as they should, symbolized by the story’s setting degenerating into ever-meaner locations and ever-more-desperate maskings thereof before the pressure is too much as everything (literally and otherwise) blows apart. Fortunately, our hero’s essential innocence allows him the means to see through this tragedy and plant the seed of a better tomorrow.

While there’s no confounding of language, the result is the ruin of the attempt and its abandonment by the survivors in favor of reconciliation and reformation into something that this renewed humility in the (surviving) people can accomplish without dehumanizing themselves, their creations, or each other. As both an homage to the original that equals, if not surpasses, Lang’s film as well as on its own merits this is a story that ends in a bittersweet, but, hopeful mood after seeing great amounts of hubris result in self-destruction as pride goes before a fall. Recommended.

If you would like to see for yourself, you can buy a copy of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis at Amazon. The soundtrack is also worth getting a physical copy of, as this playlist shows.

The Superversive Gundam Series: Gundam Unicorn

“Superversive” and “Mobile Suit Gundam” doesn’t get associated often. Over the course of the history of this giant franchise of Japanese science fiction, there’s been a strong note of despair and incidents of nihilistic excess that cannot be ignored. (If Yoshiyuki “Kill ‘Em All!” Tomino is involved, be ready for it.)

This is not universal, and recently a series not only shook itself loose of that legacy but managed to be Superversive. That series is Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Re:0096, and you can watch it free and legal here (subtitled into English) or (for American readers) on Adult Swim’s Toonami block on Saturdays (dubbed). If you prefer (and you can find them, and read Japanese) there are print versions; Unicorn originally was a light novel before its series adaptation.

The reason I mark this series out as Superversive has to do with the subject of the story, which concerns itself with the origin of this setting’s creation and the corruption that took root at the beginning to subvert the real potential for the uplifting of Mankind into a more perfect form- Newtypes (i.e. psychics, telepaths). The conflict of the story revolves around those seeking to maintain the undermining lie upon which all of this meta-narrative’s conflict revolves, or expose the truth to all of Mankind and thereby risk the collapse of a corrupt order into utter chaos in the effort to restore the original intention of the founders of the Universal Century era.

And by saying that much, I likely spoiled some of it. My apologies.

This is a series featuring giant robots fighting battles where our protagonist is reluctant to fight, tries to love his way through it all, and–especially once he gets a literal princess at his side–actually manages to pull some measure of it off. Why? Because that desire to love his enemies leads him to the truth, and that truth is the means that leads him to achieve his victory in the end despite facing down multiple superweapons and just as many black-hearted antagonists who’d throw billions to Baal (not so figuratively) than admit that they serve a lie.

While many Gundam series conclude with bittersweet success for the protagonists, if they succeed at all, this time it’s properly uplifting. There’s a reality to it that isn’t present in others, and a decided lack of nihilism despite all of the suffering and death that occurs. While I’ve yet to watch a Gundam series that lies to me, this is the first one that ended in a way properly uplifted me, like after I watched Star Wars the first time lo those many years ago.

In short, this is a beautiful series in all ways possible. Short of a Miyazaki masterpiece, it is rare to get such a treat in most franchise anime. Recommended.

St. Lucian’s Star: A Catholic Science Fiction Short Is Published

Out today at Lyonesse, a short fiction subscription service, is my science fiction adventure tale, St. Lucian’s Star. It’s the story from the POV of Lillyanne Troppe, a young lady with a gift for locating lost objects. Set in 2087, she gets the chance of a lifetime to accompany the handsome Relic Hunter, Darrion Artenan, on the recovery mission. The exciting adventure turns into a nightmare as things go wrong.

St. Lucian’s Star
By Dawn Witzke

Earth, 2087

“I’m closed!” I didn’t look when the bell jingled on the front door. It was likely just Alma. Again. The 103-year-old woman could never keep track of her keys. Or her purse. Or her teeth. Locating another lost set of keys was not on my agenda for the evening, but saying no to Alma wasn’t an option. What she lacked in size and strength, she made up for in attitude. The majority of my referrals were from Alma. If I denied her once, most of my clients would go with her. Finding lost keys wasn’t very exciting, but it paid the bills. At least it would be quick and then I could go upstairs, get in my pj’s, eat cold pizza, curl up with Jake and read the latest Declan Finn novel.

I inherited the building that served as both my home and office a few years past when the gentlemen I was renting from died. He had left me everything, which wasn’t much beyond the building and a cabin at Spirit Lake. I sold the cabin and used the money to fix up the building and upgrade the outdated appliances. I didn’t have much, but I didn’t need much.

On the first floor, the front door opened into a hallway that led to two rooms. The larger of the two was my work room, where I entertained clients. The other was my closet sized office where I kept the records for my floundering locating service.

Troppe Recovery.
Nothing is too small to locate.

Read the rest of the story at Lyonesse, then stop back and let me know what you think.

If you like it, consider signing up for my mailing list on my website. I have a new Lillyanne & Jake story coming out, exclusively for my subscribers.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Superversive SF Newsletter. You don’t want to miss anything. Trust me on this.

 

#SpaceOperaWeek: Five Current Space Operas You Should Be Reading

Yesterday I posted a definitive list of all-time best space operas, but there are some current new ones that provide a fresh take on the genre as well. I’m assuming you’ve already read my Star Realms: Rescue Run, so here’s what I’m excited to be reading lately:

1. The Revelations Cycle Series by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. Mechs. Monsters. Aliens. Mercs. This series is pure space opera fun with a really well-detailed world. The first book, Cartwright’s Cavaliers deals with one of the major human merc companies going through a bankruptcy and a young man inheriting the mantle to take it over and make it great again. It’s riveting fun all the way through, and you’ll love the CASPer mech suit action the whole way through. I Haven’t read the second book yet, but it’s on my short list to read soon!

2. Excalibur by Tim Marquitz. When I opened this up I felt like I was living what I wanted out of the Babylon 5 spinoff series Crusade that they never got around to delivering me. We have a somewhat disgraced captain who has been doing special jobs for the Covenant on the side with his band of fun and supremely competent crewmen. His ship is made of stolen alien tech — and those aliens are back in force, but for some reason, the fleet is caught with their pants down. It’s up to him to save the galaxy.

3. The Maxwell Saga by Peter Grant. I just picked up Take The Star Road, the first in a currently five book series. This is a Horatio Alger in space type of story, where we have a man picking up and working on a trading vessel to get experience to go join up with a colony that promises opportunity. A fun read the whole way, and he gets caught up with a Yakuza-type crime syndicate and their ancient legends. I’ve been told we can expect a new book in the series around Christmas.

4. The Darkship Series by Sarah Hoyt. There’s a world out there of genetically modified humans that is just rumor to the denziens of earth.They’re supposed to be terrible people to be eradicated, but our hero learns to love the people of Eden, or should I say a person of Eden, as adventure unfolds and nothing is what it seems. Lots of action and romance in this one. A new installment, Darkship Revenge, just came out a couple weeks ago!

5. A Greater Duty by Yakov Merkin. I just picked this one up, as it came out a couple of days ago, but it promises a lot of cool alien species, epic battles with a Galactic Alliance, and as a member of the #PulpRevolution, I know Yakov will have great instincts for a fun, dynamic story. It’s also edited by Superversive Press’s Ben Zwycky.

The Superversive in Tabletop RPGs: Space Opera Edition

It’s Space Opera Week. While a lot of people who love this style of story are content to read or watch them, a significant number of us want to make our own. There’s plenty of writing-specific advice around, so I’ll focus on those of us who want to game them instead.

So, you want a Superversive Space Opera? Where do you start? Well, if you’re not doing GURPS Lensman, you still want to have that book (or the novels it’s about) handy. That example will be the model you’ll find easiest to adapt for gaming purposes.

Your players play characters who champion their cultural traditions and institutions. This means you’re some sort of Galactic Patrol, formally or otherwise, because the standard gameplay scenario involves dealing with predatory actors seeking to undermine your people. As active agents, you have reason to seek out such trouble and put a stop to it.

Your players play pro-active characters. Be it by acting on orders from another, or one of the players coming to the table with a plan, a Superversive Space Opera relies on the characters being the ones driving the game and that means acting according during play. This is not a place for passive or reactive people; that’s for other media.

Your game has a solid moral core to it. Just like playing Pendragon Superversive Space Opera requires that the players engage with a solid moral foundation. This is best made explicit to the players at the beginning (again, like Pendragon) so you can have everyone on the same page and not waste time doing that after you’re underway.

Do that, and you’re golden. Now you see why I recommended having those Lensman books handy. These elements are not only present, but front-and-center where they can’t be ignored, which is what you want when you’re looking for a model to adapt to your game at your table. There’s plenty of others out there, so pick what you want to use and commit to it. The fun you have will depend on the work you put in, so have at it.

Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5: Space Opera Series

It’s #SpaceOperaWeek and I can think of no better way to launch my first regular Superversive column than to celebrate the genre in which I write and love. I’ll be doing more top fives as they feel appropriate, but as a writer of Space Opera, it makes a lot of sense to launch in celebration of some of my greatest influences. Naturally, these are just my opinions, so I expect outrage, disagreement, fist shaking, and the like at my choices. Just know that you’re wrong. It says definitive in the title, and we all know the internet never lies.

Without further ado, your Space Opera Top Five!

5. The Serrano Legacy – Elizabeth Moon wrote what at first feels like a light romp in the vein of “The Most Dangerous Game.” At the same time she has a compelling background with the Famlias and their political influence over the Fleet that both hampers and helps our heroes at different times. The characters are about the easiest to get attached to in science fiction, and when you get to the third book in the first trilogy – you start to see some really cool sci-fi concepts in a rejuvenation treatment that makes the elderly young again, and its consequences to society. Moon uses the universe as a backdrop for other stories from there, always relating to the Serranos and their influence over the fleet. From a pure fun perspective, this work is some of my favorite.

4. Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons shows the depth of imagination that Space Opera can attain. This series mixes literary prowess with Indiana Jones in space style fun. While the later books aren’t as good as the first couple installments, Simmons left his mark on the Space Opera genre and most modern authors riff off of his concepts even if subconsciously.

3. Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy – Tie in fiction is looked down on quite a bit, and I actually will differentiate this from the Star Wars films, as we’re focusing on literary fiction for the purposes of this post. Honestly, this series stands on its own. One doesn’t even have to have seen Star Wars to enjoy the depth of character, the machinations of the supreme strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, the coming to prominence of Mara Jade, or all of the other wonderful facets of this series. It takes Star Wars and adds real depth and gravitas to the universe. There are very few examples of space opera out there that are finer.

2. Lensman – The original Space Opera by E.E. “Doc” Smith. He wrote this over the course of his life. Two epic alien species the Arisians and The Eddorians toying with the younger races like humanity in order to try to assert their will over the galaxy. These books are short, action packed, and they have a great punch to them. This series has inspired the likes of Star Wars and Babylon 5, and still is some of the most impactful work in the genre to this day.

1. The Vorkosigan Saga – This is a series by multiple Hugo winner Lois McMasterBujold, which debuted in the early 1980s. Originally penned as Star Trek fanfiction, the world was launched with Shards of Honor, a romance story in space about lovers from two worlds with completely different values. Though this is one of the lighter stories in the universe, it grew from there as we next met Miles Vorkosigan, the series’ main protagonist in The Warrior’s Apprentice. It’s got sweeping empires, weird body modifications, a great fleet battle, mercenaries, spies, about everything you’d want out of a book. And while that book shaped my interest in the genre in my youth, the series honestly only gets much better as it goes along. Lois hit on every mark possible in space opera and plays with a number of different story archetypes.
Jon Del Arroz is the author of the Alliance Award nominated and top-10 Amazon bestselling Space Opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run. His second novel, For Steam And Country, is set to be released by Superversive Press this summer. He is considered to be the leading Hispanic voice in Science Fiction, and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. He regularly posts to his popular Science Fiction blog at http://delarroz.com. Twitter: @jondelarroz Gab.ai: @otomo

Attack of the CLFA Booknado–New Releases and Book Deals

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is mostly a Facebook group dedicated to writers of a similar ilk banding together against the darkness that is traditional publishing, and all of the various and sundry political filth that has seeped into the vast majority of it. Once a month, they have their “Booknado” … because book bombing sounded goofy? I don’t recall the reasoning anymore. But it’s their collection of new releases and book deals.

 Lion’s Share (Tales of Dunham), by Moriah Jovan

Single mother Blythe had to depend on Finn, her terrifying father-in-law, to pull her through her husband’s death. Six years, countless dinners, kids’ activities, and a successful career later, there is nothing between them but friendship and respect. Nothing at all.

 

The Fugitive Snare (Matt & Michelle Book 3) by Henry Vogel

Psi Corps wants Matt, the most powerful psychic in generations. He slipped through their fingers twice and escaped beyond the borders of the Terran Federation. But mere laws won’t stop Psi Corps from coming after Matt. Matt & Michelle must destroy Psi Corps or serve them.

Will they be slayers or slaves? There are no other choices.

 The Long Black (The Black Chronicles Book 1) by J.M. Anjewierden

Morgan thought (after escaping the heavy-gravity mines of her homeworld) life as a starship mechanic would be easy, and maybe even fun. That was before the thugs, bureaucracy, bad bosses, unexpectedly having to take care of her friend’s little girl. Then the Space Pirates show up…

Green Sunday by Ryk Brink

When TJ, a small time internet show host with his head in the clouds, met a strange green-haired girl in his secluded mountain town, he thought his luck was changing. Unfortunately, on her heels was a collection of sociopaths determined to destroy his hometown for the benefit of a deepweb gameshow’s cameras.

A zombie comedy book unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

Crossover: Chronicles of Feyree, Scroll 1 (Volume 1).

By Claudia Newcorn

They’re going to get their wings…or die trying.

 

 

 Ten Davids, Two Goliaths (A Fallen Empire Novella) by Matthew W. Quinn

A pair of ex-Imperial fighter pilots participate in an ambush of two Imperial cruisers on a training mission. Will the fighters teach the Imperials the same lesson Billy Mitchell taught so long ago, or will the Imperial firepower be too strong?

 

Doctor to Dragons (Novella) by G. Scott Huggins

 

The Dark Lord’s favorite dragon is constipated. Dr. James DeGrande, veterinarian and orc-slayer, is going to have to deal with it.…

This one could get messy.

 

 The Genie Hunt (Spook Hunters Book One) by M.C. Tuggle

Attorney Buddy Vuncannon and his friend Coot Pickard stumble upon a criminal gang that includes a mutual friend and a genie who does the gang’s dirty work.

 

 

DISCOUNTED to $1.99 OR LESS

 Honor at Stake (Love at First Bite Book 1) by Declan Finn.

The Dragon Award Nominated novel. Now $0.99 from now until May 19th. (Usually $4.99)

One is a merciless, bloodthirsty monster.

The other is a vampire.

 The Caliphate (A post-apocalyptic suspense novel) by Anna Erishkigal

What if ISIS controlled America?